Bute councillors back colleague over standards complaint

MV Seahorse II, the vessel at the heart of one of the subjects which has led to Argyll and Bute Council's chief executive submitting a complaint to the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life in Scotland over the conduct of Dunoon councillor Michael Breslin.
MV Seahorse II, the vessel at the heart of one of the subjects which has led to Argyll and Bute Council's chief executive submitting a complaint to the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life in Scotland over the conduct of Dunoon councillor Michael Breslin.

Two of Bute’s councillors have given their backing to a colleague after he was reported to a standards watchdog by the authority’s own chief executive.

Robert Macintyre and Isobel Strong are among 12 elected politicians in Argyll and Bute to have signed a statement in support of Dunoon councillor Michael Breslin.

Councillor Breslin published on his website this week a copy of a letter from council chief executive Sally Loudon, informing him that he was the subject of a complaint to the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland.

The letter told Cllr Breslin that Mrs Loudon and the council’s three executive directors all believe he has broken the councillors’ code of conduct as a result of the content and circulation of emails by him on three subjects.

One of those subjects is the long-running dispute between Bute businessman Calum McMillan, owner of local firm Argyll Workboats, and the council over what Mr McMillan claims are attempts by some authority officers to prevent him using Rothesay harbour as the permanent home for his vessel MV Seahorse II.

The other issues of concern to the three senior officials - Cleland Sneddon, Douglas Hendry and Pippa Milne - are the authority’s disposal of the Castle Toward estate, directly opposite Rothesay Bay, and the pay and conditions of workers in the ‘care at home’ sector.

A public statement backing Mr Breslin has been signed by the following people:

Michael Russell MSP (SNP, Argyll and Bute);

Mike MacKenzie MSP (SNP regional member, Highlands and Islands);

Jean Urquhart MSP (SNP regional member, Highlands and Islands);

John Finnie MSP (independent regional member, Highlands & Islands);

Brendan O’Hara MP (SNP, Argyll and Bute);

Cllr Isobel Strong (SNP, Isle of Bute and former Provost);

Cllr Robert MacIntyre (independent, Isle of Bute - former SNP councillor and current chair of the council’s Bute and Cowal area committee);

Cllr Vivien Dance (independent, Helensburgh Central);

Cllr Bruce Marshall (independent, Cowal);

Cllr Gordon Blair (SNP, Cowal);

Cllr Iain Maclean (SNP, Oban North and Lorn);

Cllr Iain Angus MacDonald (SNP, Oban North and Lorn).

Their statement, in full, is as follows.

“Cllr Michael Breslin has published on his website a letter he has received from Sally Loudon, the Chief Executive of Argyll & Bute.

“It contains notice that she and her management team have referred Cllr Breslin to the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in respect of his “conduct in relation to the disposal of the Castle Toward Estate, Rothesay Harbour and the pay and conditions of care at home workers” and that she is concerned about what she claims are Cllr Breslin’s ‘sustained, repeated and public criticism of council officers’.

“Should the Commissioner agree to investigate this complaint we would not be able to comment on the matter in public. However as no investigation has started we wish to make it known publicly, as elected representatives in Argyll and Bute, that we regard Michael as an exceptional and diligent councillor who is working very hard for his constituents and for the people of Argyll and Bute.

“He has been subject to much pressure from the council leadership over recent months because of his strong advocacy for local communities with regard to important local issues.

“It is greatly to his credit that he has refused to be deterred from speaking the truth as he sees it and we applaud his determination to ensure that the problems of the council - and solutions to those problems - are known and debated across Argyll and Bute.

“Any attempt to silence Cllr Breslin such as this letter from the council chief executive is in our view unwelcome, unwise, unjustified and unacceptable and represents a further worrying development in the departure of Argyll and Bute from best standards and practice of democracy and governance.

“These tactics should be strongly resisted by all who care about the area and its future.

“We intend to write in support of Cllr Breslin to the Commissioner and to draw the attention of Audit Scotland to this development which is germane to its continuing investigation of the council.

“We will also write to the Scottish Government expressing concern about the letter in the name of the council chief executive and her three executive directors which we believe is harmful to the people they are employed to serve.”